WASHINGTON – The country that started the entire “Arab Spring” movement almost two years ago could also trip up the movement toward democracy across all of North Africa due to the increasing emergence of Sunni Salafism, according to a report in Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
Tunisia’s more moderate Islamist party, the Ennahda, has been having increasing problems with its other coalition partners, but the Salafists are threatening to drive a further wedge among them, causing the increasing prospect of unrest in countries of the region going through similar turmoil.
Tunisia’s former president, Zine El Abidine Ben, had allowed the Salafists to grow.
However, they appear divided among other militant groups and political parties. As a consequence, they generally refrained from armed force to try and overthrow the current Tunisian interim government.
“I am going to wage jihad on these people because …the leaders of Ennahda have chosen the United States as their god,” according to Salafist leader Imam Nasreddine Aloui. “It is the Americans who are writing the laws and the new constitution.”
For its part, the Ennahda, which took office following parliamentary elections in Oct. 2011, has sought to balance the Salafists with its two secularist coalition partners, the Congress for the Republic and Ettakatol.
“Ennahda has attempted to co-opt Salafist support through dialogue, incentives and leniency, but the party has largely failed,” according to a report from the open-source group Stratfor. “Instead, its conciliatory approach appears to have emboldened the Salafists, as demonstrated by recent riots and the Sept. 14 attack on the U.S. Embassy. Now, the Salafists have begun to instigate large protests.”
In turn, Ennahda’s more conciliatory approach has prompted criticism from its coalition partners, who claim Ennahda in fact is collaborating with the Salafists ,which in turn really are out to undercut Ennahda’s Islamist credentials, the report said.
Waiting in the wings, however, is the country’ security establishment that is watching to ensure that the Salafist movement doesn’t get out of control, a development which could affect the government’s path to democracy.
If the transition to democracy or mainstreaming of radical Islamists in the country fails, the report adds, then it could have a major impact on the political transitions under way in neighboring Egypt and throughout the Arab world – “here some civil uprisings are already descending into civil war,” such as in Syria.
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